Chatting with the Hermanos Pou!
Iker and Eneko's vision of climbing and mountaineering22 November 2021
An interview with the two legendary Spanish brothers, who have been protagonists in climbing for decades
There are many cases of brothers who have written the history of climbing or mountaineering. Examples as Le Menestrel, Fred and Francois Nicole, Huber, Bindhammer and finally the French Bassa and Mickael Mawem.
In this list, one of the pairs of brothers who has stood out most regularly in the last couple of decades is that made by Iker and Eneko Pou, climbers who still represent an indestructible reference in Spanish and international climbing.
What about Iker Pou for example? In 2000 he got the third ascent of Action Directe and in the following years he was one of the reference sport climbers, with multiple routes of grade 9 and bouldering up to 8B+. A level that has always grown over the years, so much that, with Artaburu in 2018 and Guggen-hell this year, he reached the threshold of 9b being over 40 years old!
However, in parallel with the crag, Iker and Eneko have created an exceptional team on some of the toughest multipitches in the world, many of which bear their own mark. Not to mention the many expeditions that have seen them wandering around the world in continuous exploration, looking for routes and rocks that were able to satisfy their immense creativity!
Two characters who truly represent climbing and mountaineering in their essential imaginative, artistic component as well as the seek of the extreme, and who therefore also represent a an example in contrast with that competitive component that now increasingly demonstrates so much strength, but very little soul.
For these reasons, we asked the Pou brothers a few questions, to be inspired by the great motivation with which, after decades of uninterrupted activity, they still go on satisfying their thirst for vertical exploration!
Iker, Eneko, you have been active on the international climbing scene for decades, performing excellent deeds. Don’t you feel tired of climbing at this level?
The truth is that we are not tired, we love what we do and as long as things are done with passion and motivation, we can always go a long way. It is also true that it is difficult to always stay at a high level, but as I have said before, the desire to do new things and motivation can overcome everything. We would tell you that today we are more motivated than when we were young…jejeje
Ok, jokes aside: We see you always on the move, climbing exceptional lines, and most of all always with great creativity and an unlimited desire to explore, a feature which has become rare even for younger climbers. What’s your vision of climbing, what makes possible to keep this great enthusiasm?
We have always loved exploring and discovering new things, be it mountains, walls, valleys, opening new routes ... the thing is to get out of our comfort zone and discover new places. In addition to all this we love being able to open new itineraries and be able to add our grain of sand to the community. We have always thought that a good mountaineer or climber is one who knows how to handle all types of terrain and styles. We personally like to climb in all the terrains and mountain ranges of the planet. We have always liked variety and versatility. The trend of new generations in general are totally different. Society is increasingly well-off and this is clearly reflected in the activities that are also carried out in the mountains. Clearly the trend of young people is towards sport climbing, bouldering, competition ... and less towards mountaineering and adventure. The trend is increasing towards the sportsmanship of the activity in mountain. In mountaineering there are more risks, which suffers a little more and this does not interest young people.
What do you look for, at a personal level, in mountaineering?
In our case, the activity has to excite us, motivate us and fill us with enthusiasm. That is why the constant search for challenges and new openings throughout the world. Climbing or mountain climbing is more than just a few gym movements, for us it is the engine and energy to face life with smile and enthusiasm.
It seems that being brothers is an exceptional incentive, when you share the same passion for climbing! You are an example, but we have also Le Menestrel, Huber, Nicole, Bindhammer, Mawem… How do you live your relationship as brothers, in relation to climbing?
We were lucky to get to know the mountain from the hand of our parents. We practically started climbing together (Eneko a year before) and without a doubt this has always helped us. We understand each other very well outside and within the world of the mountain, in this way it is easier to carry out any project. There is a complicity between the two that I would say is difficult to exist in any chord that are not brothers. We know the strengths and weaknesses of each one, this means that without even talking to each other, with just a glance, we decide what to do at all times. In our case we would say that everything has been points in favor.
Iker, your started with sport climbing, and then you progressed towards mountaineering. As for Eneko, mountaineering has always been his first passion. Can you tell us the results you are more proud of, in your vertical life?
We started in the world of the mountain doing mountaineering and classic route. After a few years Iker focused more on sport climbing and Eneko more on mountaineering, but every year doing some mountaineering together. Today the trend of the two is clearly towards mountaineering. What fills us the most today and what we are most proud of is all the expeditions and things that we have come to do together. Without each other we would not have reached where we have come.
Let’s speak of your most recent exploits. Your exploration world-wide brought you on the Andes, where you opened and climbed several routes. What are the features of South America that have attracted you the most? Can you describe your latest journey and the routes that you have opened?
In the last few years we have visited the Cordillera Blanca a few times. For us it is a true paradise and with enormous possibilities to do new things. If in addition to all this we add that the local people and the mountain community are wonderful, they make the Andes a magical place. In recent years we have opened more than 10 new routes of all styles in the mountain range. Incredible climbing routes, especially in the San Marcos area (Everything to explore when we arrive), and some other incredible mountaineering routes such as Cashan Oeste and Huashmarraju (first ascents of these faces.) In the next few years we will try to continue with the exploration in the mountain range.
Which are your next projects and the exotic destination where you want to explore climbing possibilities?
As always we have many projects in mind and little time to go to all of them ...jajaja. In principle we want to finish the TNF 4 ELEMENTS project that we started and because of the pandemic we have not yet been able to finish. So by the beginning of 2022 this will be the priority. We still have the earth element and for this we are looking for some exotic and different place, but still undefined. We want to climb something beautiful. We would also love to go to Patagonia, alps, Himalaya...
The climbing and mountaineering scene is changing at a very high speed. There are several good outcomes, yet some other are definitely less good. Which are the future aspects that deserve a thorough exploration? Which are the values that you think should be safeguarded in this evolutionary process?
Undoubtedly everything is evolving and changing very fast in recent times and not all changes are for the better. More and more competition is entering the mountains: records, conometro, the highest, the most difficult ... and losing the most important values such as: Friendship, companionship and knowing how to enjoy the activity. All aspects of the mountain are tending to become more competitive and try to domesticate, losing all its essence. In our opinion, companionship, exploration, good times, respect for the environment will be the key to a more supportive and better world. Each one at his level and with his possibilities, but we will never stop exploring the wonders that the earth offers us.
Interview by Alberto Milani